PressFriendly is debunking the pervasive and incorrect notion that startups need PR people.
It is a startup itself, building software that replaces many of the functions of a PR firm. Today it launched a platform that takes startups through the process of media outreach and helps them be smarter about their efforts.
“We’ve built a solution for founders or early marketing people so they don’t need to hire an agency,” cofounder Joel Andren said in an interview. “We teach them how to do their own PR and build relationships with reporters in a way that is smarter and more automated. Startups now have another choice, between doing it themselves and an agency.”
The “pitch wizard” tool guides startups through crafting a compelling media pitch, with information about what they are announcing, their story, their product, traction etc.
PressFriendly has also amassed a database of tech journalists and their beats, based on everything they have written in the past four months. The engine then generates a list of reporters who are likely to be interested in the story, along with their contact information.
PressFriendly also has tools for creating messaging and pitch documents, and has PR professionals on hand to provide additional support.
“There are some very good PR people who understand tech and press, but most startups can’t work with them because they are too busy or can’t afford them,” Andren said. “There is this whole ecosystem of second- and third-tier PR people and consultants who basically fill startups’ minds with bad info, telling them that they need to be hiring an agency when they really don’t. If you are a seed company or bootstrapped, an agency doesn’t make sense.”
As a reporter, I spend an inordinate amount of time sorting through irrelevant, un-newsworthy, uninteresting pitches. I (and I think I can speak for my colleagues here) am not any more likely to cover a startup that is pitched by a PR person than I am to cover one that’s pitched directly by an entrepreneur. In fact, I prefer the latter. What matters is the pitch has to catch my interest and contain relevant information.
Furthermore, all of our email addresses can be found on our author profile pages, so it’s not as if there is some secret, exclusive pipeline to our inbox.
So startups, with their limited resources, do not need to shell out for an expensive agency if they can get the pitch right.
As it turns out, a startup I recently covered used PressFriendly to find me. The founders learned that I have covered a number of art startups and reached out to me directly. I was interested in their story, and a lengthy article came out of it.
The whole process was refreshingly free of middlemen.
PressFriendly offers three pricing tiers depending on how much attention a startup wants. The basic plan is $99 a month; the most expensive plan is $999 a month.
This is significantly less than the $12,000 a month agencies charge.
Andren grew up wanting to be a reporter but was deterred by a summer newspaper internship where he had to write more than 100 obituaries. He went on to work for a large PR firm in Seattle, cofounded Bitcasa (which is still alive and kicking), and was the head of marketing for Y Combinator startup HelloSign.
He saw time and again how many entrepreneurs struggled to figure out media outreach and how much misinformation there was.
“90% of PR firms are basically leeching on the booming tech ecosystem and all the money that is going through it,” he said. “Our software is like a really smart PR person.”
The ultimate vision is to extend beyond the tech world and become a resource for all kinds of small businesses.
Right now PressFriendly is working with around 20 startups. The company is based in San Francisco.
VentureBeat’s VB Insight team is studying email marketing tools.
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